Ready. Steady. Go!

When he (King Herod) had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied… (Matthew 2)

I hate to admit this but sometimes, probably more than sometimes, I feel threatened when I think I might lose my place. I liked sitting on the front row at school. It gave an appearance of being the good student. In some churches the front row is a place of honor. A status symbol.

The prophets of God had been silent for 400 years when the cry of a baby broke through the dark-silence. During those 400 years the chief priests had achieved positions of great authority and honor.  They were the ones to interpret the law. They had a vested interest in their position. They kept up the appearance of seeking God. Then these foreigners entered their land and asked where the baby who would be king was to be born. When confronted with the birth of the Messiah they made a choice. They chose to keep their position.

These men had been writing about the coming Messiah. They had studied scripture. They had memorized scripture. It was written and attached to their heads. The Messiah in theory wasn’t the same as living, breathing promise.  Their hearts had become like stone and they were unable to make the six-mile journey to Bethlehem and worship the long-awaited King. They were unable to make the 18-inch journey from their head to their heart.

It is so easy to become complacent. Surrounded by messages we see every day that tell us to be more, buy more, see more, consume more, more is better. Many times, in the midst of more we miss the simplicity of God’s message.  I can become so caught up in the reading. The writing. The studying. I miss the real message. God gives me a choice. Stay in Jerusalem and keep your position. Or, come travel with me to Bethlehem. Follow the Star. Leave your heart of stone. Leave who you think you should be. See who you can be when you allow your heart to be changed.

The Big Visit

“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10)

Scene 15: “Wise Men Visit the King”

Fade in slowly, as scene opens a small, one-room home in Bethlehem can be seen. Three Magi, otherwise known as We Three Kings of Orient glide into the frame. Dressed in brightly jeweled, lavish robes of silk and ermine they have wandered from Afar, a region in the East. Parking their camels in the nearest lot, they now bear tiny treasures they will give two-year-old Jesus.

Our modern minds like to clean things up a bit. Led astray with the pictures we form from songs, paintings and our own fickle minds, we see a scene with our “Hollywood” eyes. Reality seldom exists in our vision.

Scripture doesn’t tell us how many wise men there were. We only know they brought three gifts. It was more likely to have been a caravan of several magi and servants. Historians record they followed the star for two years.

Magi were often sent as ambassadors of good will. It was customary to honor a king with gifts. Lavish gifts. The gifts they brought would not have fit in a two-year-old’s treasure box or little genie bottles.

God reveals His character in every story and picture we are given throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the very gifts the Magi present we see a God who provides. Mary and Joseph were about to pull up roots and flee to Egypt. Even in those days, moving wasn’t cheap. God provided gold for their move and exile.

The frankincense and myrrh weren’t just to make things smell good. Frankincense was used for sacrifices. Myrrh was frequently used for burials. God shows us how the story will unfold. The birth of Jesus will always point to the death of Jesus.

Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience and sin in the garden, our world became broken. Through the birth of Jesus, God provided a way for restoration. In the same way God provided for Mary and Joseph, Jesus sacrifice, His death and resurrection provide a way for me to be restored. God’s plan from the beginning was to bring restoration to the world. He restores all things broken. Marriages. Friendships. Neighbors. He takes our broken pieces and makes them whole again. He has already provided the way for you.

Are You Listening?

“No wise man, medium, magician, or diviner is able to make known to the King the mystery he asked about. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” (Daniel 2:27)

Have you ever wondered if anything you are saying is being heard? I remember my Mother often saying, “I am talking to a wall.”  Usually a brick wall. When I became a wife and a mother I finally understood, I was the wall she was talking to.

In the book of Daniel, we learn that after interpreting a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar, “He (King Nebuchadnezzar) made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men.” Daniel and his friends continued to worship God in a godless culture. They always gave credit to God for their knowledge. They did not rely on magic, astrology, or sorcery to advance in the King’s courts.

I wonder if Daniel ever felt like my mother? Did he wonder if these wise men of the King’s listened to his stories? About this God who walked with them. About a child that would be born. A King that would one day rule in peace?

Daniel threw a pebble in the vast ocean of the Babylonian culture and it continued to ripple through generations of wise men. Until one day. Six hundred years later they looked up. Echoing through the years they remembered.

 “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2)

It was that shining light they saw and followed. It is estimated that the wise men, the magi, traveled for two years to their journey’s end. I have not always been a great traveler. When we would go to Indiana once a year from West Texas, it took a full day just to get out of the state. And another day to cross the remaining four states. Two days. Long days. Miserable days for my parents. I cannot imagine a two-year journey to worship a King you didn’t even know. Simply because one man told a story to your ancestors.

They chose to journey out of their dark land because they saw a light shining in the sky. They chose to journey over 600 days because of a 600-year-old story. They chose to journey to worship a King that would bring peace. These wise men chose to see beyond the boundaries of their own culture and beliefs. To put their hope in the Star of Bethlehem.

Do you feel the darkness threatening to overwhelm you? Have you lost all hope for brighter days? That light still shines for us today. The Star of Bethlehem, Jesus, still shines His light for each one of us. What may appear just a flicker of light, of hope, will only continue to grow. Light always, always overwhelms the darkness. Just keep moving.


25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah.27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

29 Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:25-32)

This short snippet is all we know of this man named Simeon. As a righteous, devout Jew of that day, he would have gone to the Temple each morning for prayer. He knew he would see the Lord’s Messiah, the anointed one, before he died.

I picture Simeon’s waiting as a child anticipates opening their gifts on Christmas morning. Waiting, waiting with a hope that Santa would deliver exactly what they are waiting for. He isn’t waiting with a doom and gloom hanging over his days. Knowing when the Messiah comes he will die.

Guided by the Spirit, I see a man rushing into the temple every morning wondering if today will be the day. We don’t know anything else about Simeon except what is in this brief story. We know he faithfully prayed every day waiting on Jesus. Waiting for a promise.

Can you picture his joy when Joseph and Mary walked into the Temple. Jesus would have been eight-days old as was the custom under Jewish law to present their child to God. Still a tiny baby, looking like every other child presented at the temple. But Simeon recognized him the moment he saw him.

Simeon’s life of faithful service lived for this one moment in time. Taking up the child in his arms he holds his promise and the hope of each of us.

” I can now die in peace because you have delivered what you promised.”

God allowed Simeon to see His salvation. Prepared in the presence of all people. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.

God prepared a way for each of us to see that same promise. His glory and His light revealed to us. God, I pray today I wait for you with the same hope Simeon held onto. While I wait, Lord let me remain faithful, prayerful, and always hopeful.

Challenged By Culture

“In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.” (Luke 2:8)

I know that when most people marry, they have to learn how to compromise.  Two different backgrounds learning to coexist without killing each other. My husband and I had to learn the same lessons.  We both had to learn to navigate the minefield of our diverse cultural backgrounds.

I was from the very southern country of Texas. He had English parents who had spent 17 of his 22 years in Panama, Central America. They were confused. As English children they should be seen and not heard. As Latin children, everyone was heard at the same time at a much higher decibel level than I was accustomed to. Nearly thirty-four years later I have learned to be loud. Most of the time compromise is about changing your perspective not getting your way.

Understanding cultural differences in our own time is challenging. Understanding cultural differences in the first century is downright difficult.

When I picture shepherds living out in the fields my mind sees stained glass window depictions of the scene.   Three or four older men and a young boy laying in a field with a bunch of white robed, be-winged beings floating around on a dark night lighting up the heavens. Everyone is clean and tidy. This has always been my vision. Visions and reality don’t usually live on the same page.

Shepherds were not in the top strata of society. They were the most socially undesirable. They lived in the fields, they slept with their sheep. It was hard, physical labor.

Isn’t it just like God? He doesn’t send his angels to the wealthy, the famous, or the top government officials. He doesn’t even send the angels to tell the priests or the scribes. He announces the birth of a King to a bunch of shepherds. The angels went on to tell the shepherds, “Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” In that announcement the angels defined Jesus’ mission as our Savior. His royalty as our Messiah. His authority as our Lord.

Our culture has not changed much from that day. We still look for a savior in the trappings of the world. We miss the simplicity of the message of God’s love because we expect a King that will rule the world. When God has given us a King that wants to rule our hearts.

Wrapped in Love

 “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

When I was in fourth grade, I had to memorize Luke 2:7-14. To this day I can still remember every King James Version word. It creates pictures in my mind of that night, so long ago. 

I’ve never really given much thought to swaddling clothes. We can see in every painting or depiction of the scene, swaddling clothes was simply a beautiful, blue blanket. It was probably a gift at the baby shower.

Once again, my mind betrays me. I see through the lens of today’s culture. Today, swaddling is a technique of tightly wrapping a baby in a blanket. It is supposed to help the baby transition from the womb.

In the first century, swaddling clothes would have been strips of cloth wrapped around the baby’s limbs. It was believed they helped their arms and legs grow straight.  The angels told the shepherds, “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12 KJV)

God shows us two different pictures in those few words. Mary and Joseph were good parents, they wrapped Jesus with care, so that he would grow straight. Then she lays him in a manger. A manger is just a fancy name for trough. A trough, a dinner plate for the animals.

God wraps me with the same care in His Word. “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight.” (Isaiah 45:2 KJV)

He wants to create a path for me, a straight way to follow.

The angels told the shepherds, “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12 KJV) The shepherds find Jesus exactly as the angels told them. Jesus is always found in places that aren’t expected. He will always move outside what the religious teachers find “acceptable.” He still meets us today outside the walls of the expected or accepted.

Jesus didn’t come to be laid in a bassinet in the palace.  God laid aside His divine nature and became fully human. He did not come and rule as a King. He chose to become like you and me. Jesus chooses to sit beside us. To live life with us. To share in our joy, our sorrow, and our pain. Wherever you find yourself today, my friend, Jesus wants to wrap you in His love.


Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy.” (Luke 1:48-49)

The word blessed has come to mean many different things in today’s world. A commonplace answer when asked, “How are you?” “Blessed.” What does that even really mean.

Am I more blessed than someone else? It can be so easy to confuse what God calls blessed with what the world sees as blessed. According to Webster the religious definition of blessed means to hold in reverence, venerated; honored in worship, hallowed. It also means to enjoy happiness; bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune.

Mary wasn’t blessed because of anything she had done or anything she owned. She saw herself as blessed because of God. “He has done great things for me and he is holy.”

We tend to use the world’s measure to define our blessing. We compare. What we want. What we don’t have. With someone else. There should be a warning label on those beautiful, real Italian leather, black boots I covet. WARNING: These will not make you blessed. TRUTH: I am blessed “because the Mighty One has done great things for me.”

He does great things for me because He loves me. It is His love, His sacrifice, His life poured out for me. That is why I am blessed. Not for what I have. Not for what I don’t have. No, I am blessed because He loves me.

I am blessed, even when the report is negative.

Even when a loss shatters my world.

Even when the job I knew was mine, isn’t.

Even when. No, I am blessed. When the sun shines. When the rain pours. When the days are dark. When the way is cloudy. I am blessed, even when, I feel alone. I am blessed because I am His.

The Great Announcement

“Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

I have long been fascinated with the Royal Family. I glean crazy information from the media regarding hat-wearing protocol. What the Queen has for breakfast.  Mostly exaggerated or untrue. And totally irrelevant to my life.

 When any Royal is born, the Town Crier stands at the gates of the Palace and announces the birth with great fanfare and noise.

God announced the birth of Jesus:

With angels

“Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

A star

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star at its rising and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

And a question

“So he (Herod) assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Christ would be born.” (Matthew 2:4)

God sent his angels, his messengers to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Emanuel. Jesus, the Message, come to live with His people. They announced the birth of our Great Shepherd, not at the city gate or the palace, but to shepherds in a field. He sent His star to guide the magi, the kings from the east to bring gifts to Jesus, who would become our Resurrected King.

I know that I will never be a member of the Royal Family. But I am grateful that God extends His hand, and asks me to be a part of His family. No matter where we are born. Rich or poor, black or white or anything in between. Broken. Less than perfect. He invites us into a family of other messed up people. He invites us to become a part of His story. He invites us to choose. Will you travel to Bethlehem and worship the King? Or will you stay in Jerusalem and be swallowed by the world?

A Child is Born

The Birth of Jesus

2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire[a] should be registered. This first registration took place while[b]Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him[c] and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger,[d]because there was no guest room available for them.

The Shepherds and the Angels

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.[e] 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:[f]11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host[g] with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors! (Luke 2:2-14)

Can I just get a little Peace?

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

How often do I look to the world to give me peace? I search in the stories I read in the news or in my “news feed” on Facebook. I search in the leaders governing our country. I even look to my church leaders.

Zechariah’s prophecy, when his son John (the Baptist) was born, points us to the only path of true peace. It isn’t found in a news story, or in my feed. It will never be found in a government, no matter how much I try to make it happen. Even the most anointed leader can’t deliver.

True peace will only be found when each one of us allows the Morning Light to break into our own heart. When I allow the Light to overcome the darkness that seeks to overshadow me. When I allow the Shining Star of Bethlehem to guide me on the path of peace.

 As each of us allow that Star to overcome our own darkness, true peace will spread around the world. It can only come when we cross the lines that divide us and love one another. Love one another, now, in all our brokenness. Not when everyone thinks like me, believes like me, looks like me.

 Loving people is messy. I know because Jesus loved me when I was a mess. I am grateful he didn’t wait for me to be like him before he loved me. He met me where I was. He loves me. Friend, I don’t know where you find yourself today. I do know Jesus extends his hand of peace and love to you today. Will you let go of your brokenness and hold on to Him?